Mumbai will host an international friendly for first time since 1955 when young India led by Gurpreet Singh will take on Puerto Rico today
There are quite a few firsts for India when they host Puerto Rico in an international friendly here on Saturday evening.
It will be for the first time that India will take on the South American nation and also a non-Asian country in five years. Mumbai will host an international friendly for the first time since 1955, when they played against USSR at Brabourne Stadium. And at a suburban venue – Andheri Sports Complex, a multi-sports stadium and usually used for exhibition games – will taste international football for the first time.
Not just that. According to a release sent out by the All India Football Federation PR, 13 players from the squad of 27 assembled in Mumbai are below 23 years, which makes it another first.
And, India will be hungry to look for a win after an embarrassing loss to a higher-ranked side Iran 4-0 in March this year during the World Cup qualifier.
Puerto Rico, ranked 114 in FIFA rankings, 38 spots above India, cannot take the hosts for granted. India coach Stephen Constantine has gone for fresh legs and it won’t be a surprise if he fields a few experienced ones in this big game, not just for the men in blue but for Mumbai spectators as well.
“We are trying to build a pool of players who would represent India for the next 6-7 years. In fact, we already have built a sizeable group but there will be additions. There is healthy competition for each slot,” Constantine said on Friday of his young players.
It may be just another trip to a football nation for Puerto Rico, and despite this one being one long hectic flight, one cannot discount the quality of contest they will put up against the lowly-ranked India.
“They are a good side with many good players. Yeah, one may mention about their landing timing in Mumbai but you cannot take away their quality, can you?” Constantine asked. “Puerto Rico are one of the best movers in the FIFA rankings. They are a very organised side.”
Describing their style of play, Constantine said: “They love to keep the ball and play it around. They are technically very good. Once they are around the box, they are very dangerous. Against USA, they split open the rival defence with three touches.”
With an eye on the future, Constantine has appointed goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as the captain of the team, Constantine announced.
He added that the boys are a motivated lot. “We are very motivated to play against a side ranked above us. If you want to go higher, it’s important that you play against stronger sides. I would rather lose 4-0 to Iran than win 3-0 against a weaker nation,” he said.
“There will be no change to our approach. We will play in the same manner we played against Iran. We will play attacking football,” Constantine added.
The game against Puerto Rico has a lot of significance for India. It won’t be just another international experience for this young side but a win here will also help them boost their FIFA rankings.
Star Sports2 8 pm onwards
Tickets: Rs 200 onwards
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FOOTBALL: India vs Puerto Rico, 8 pm onwards; Venue: Andheri Sports Complex, Andheri
LAST FIVE MATCHES
Beat Bhutan 3-0 Away
Beat Laos 6-1 Home
Beat Laos 1-0 Away
Lost to Turkmenistan 1-2 Home
Lost to Iran 0-4 Away
Lost to Dominican Republic 0-1 Home
Lost to Dominican Republic 0-5 Away
Beat Antigua and Barbuda 2-1 Home
Drew with Grenada 3-3 Away
Lost to USA 1-3 Home
No of years after Mumbai will host an international friendly. The last game that city hosted an India was in 1955 against USSR
Number of matches that India have won in their last nine games, their best run of form
No. of ranking places that separate Puerto Rico (114) and India (152)